A new challenge for the America's Cup from the Circolo Vela Gargnano (CVG) has been accepted by the Defender, the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG).
The Circolo Vela Gargnano, represented by the Clan Des Team sailing team, is the first challenger to join the Golden Gate Yacht Club's Oracle BMW Racing team in challenging for the XXXII America's Cup.
Lorenzo RIZZARDI is President of the challenging yacht club and Head of Syndicate for the Clan Des Team.
One of Italy's leading yacht clubs, situated in the picturesque town of Gargnano on the western side of Lake Garda, the CVG is well known in sailing circles as being the organiser of the famous Centomiglia Race, a marathon 100-miler up and down the lake in September each year.
A specialty of European lake sailing is the Libera Class open 40-foot monohull class, with huge rigs and numerous crew on trapezes. In 2003 the Centomiglia was won by Clan Des Team in its Libera Class and it is this sailing team that has challenged through the CVG.
Reflecting on how it felt to become a challenger for the America's Cup, Clan Des Team's Technical Director, Cesare PASOTTI said: "It's an incredible feeling because it is everybody's dream to race for the America's Cup. This is like a very beautiful dream. That's the best way I can describe it."
The challenge from the CVG was accepted by President Pierre-Yves FIRMENICH, on behalf of the Defender, the Société Nautique de Genève.
"This is the first new challenger for the XXXII America's Cup, joining Oracle BMW Racing, the Challenger of Record, and of course our team, Alinghi,"
Firmenich said. "I welcome the Clan Des Team to the America's Cup and I wish them the very best of luck."
The challenge process for the CVG was completed on 25 March after the club fulfilled a number of formalities as well as posting a performance bond, as is required from each challenger. At that point, a registered letter from the SNG was dispatched to Mr. Rizzardi in Italy, reading in part:
"The Société Nautique de Genève hereby confirms its acceptance of Circolo Vela Gargnano's challenge to compete in the 32nd America's Cup."
Rizzardi and Pasotti didn't wish to reveal many details about their challenge, keeping their counsel when asked about potential skippers or boat designers. The team is planning a public launch on the 23 April in Milan.
But Pasotti said the Clan Des Team intended to race in the first Act of the 32nd America's Cup in Marseille in September 2004, and in the two Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts in October as well.
"It's important to have many opportunities to create value for our partners so the idea of all the different events for the next four years of this America's Cup programme, is very important for us,"
Pasotti acknowledged. "We intend to participate in the events this year."
The team expects to have two ACC boats training on Lake Garda this summer and to use a third boat to compete in the 2004 Acts, in Marseille and Valencia.
Pasotti went on to reveal that the Clan Des Team plan calls for two new ACC boats to be built in advance of the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series in 2007.
Whilst it is extremely rare for a challenger to win the America's Cup on its first attempt Pasotti says the Clan Des Team has its sights set on capturing sailing's biggest prize.
"We are challenging to win,
" Pasotti said moments after the challenge was accepted. "We don't participate just to be there, we want to win."
It should be remembered that the current Defender, the SNG was the last club based on a lake to challenge for the America's Cup. The Swiss club won the America's Cup from New Zealand in March 2003.
The Circolo Vela Gargnano is a 53-year old club on the shores of Lake Garda. Apart from its flagship event, the Centomiglia, it hosts an active racing programme, and has organised many world-class regattas.
Italy has had a strong presence in recent America's Cup competition, fielding challengers in the last five of the last seven America's Cups, winning the Louis Vuitton Cup twice (Il Moro de Venezia in 1992 and Luna Rossa in 2000).